Fear of Herdsmen, Beginning of Hunger

By Masara Kim and Daksun Habila
One would have been quick to fault the Acting President, Yemi Osibanjo on his claims in the 2017 Democracy Day broadcast of defeating insecurity in the northeast. He had highlighted some strides recorded by the Buhari-led government in the war against insurgency in the region to include the return of displaced persons including farmers to their farms.

However, perhaps just as the Executive President, Muhammadu Buhari and his Cabinet members who are mostly also thought to be lying each time they try to assure of government’s victory against Boko Haram in the northeast, the Acting President might just be uninformed.

Government officials certainly cannot be everywhere. They therefore depend largely on the information supplied to them from their field officers for any policy decisions or statements. The Nigerian government has indeed been on its oars as far as the anti-insecurity struggle is concerned. The allocation of resources for the purchase of military hardware as well as the training of military personnel for the campaign is indeed commendable.

What is however of concern is that while there is still much to be done, baseless pronouncements are constantly being made on how well the fight is going in favour of government troops. Understood, good public relations and conflict sensitive approaches are necessary for the social and psychological wellbeing of the country.

However, those affected by the situation know the truth and feel discouraged each time the government says things that are not on ground. The insurgents themselves could sometimes be propelled to leave signatures of their continued existence, through renewed attacks whenever government goes public with the half-baked truth.
Children fetching water from a well shared with cattle in Northeast Borno.
photo by Masara Kim

The Light Bearer’s recent trip to the northeast where it had the privilege of traveling through a road that is bordered on one side by the Sambisa forest in fact was eye opening on why Boko Haram is always fond of releasing videos, making daring statements against the government and sometimes calling the officers liars.

Military guarding farmers
The military in Borno state where The Light Bearer toured are indeed brave. They are mere mortals with the same emotions like everyone else. They however defy every comfort to operate in such deadly terrains where they constantly have to live in fear of an unexpected attack.

There are even soldiers who have hardly spent 24 hours with their families in over three years. They don’t get the chance to see civilian faces regularly. Therefore, such opportunities especially during military guarded mass convoy travels which is the fashion especially between Maiduguri and Damboa, always make their excitement palpable.

Those of them that operate in the villages with few traces of civilian residents do not even know who is for or against them as the insurgents at times reportedly send them children and women as spies. They always have to be on guard while at the same time providing security to the civilians in their places of worship, businesses, schools and farmlands.

However, the farms are scattered with some even located miles away from the communities which cannot all be guarded. The soldiers in such places therefore have only had to designate areas and periods within which farming activities can take place. Anything beyond those hours or territories is not their responsibility. The farmers who have their farms located outside the designated territories which cover only few meters around the affected communities will therefore depend on relief materials, if ever to survive.

Furthermore, in Chibok for instance which The Light Bearer visited, the fertile lands which require little or no fertilizer for any yield are the farthest which are unguarded. Those whose farms fall within the guarded areas therefore have the challenge of purchasing fertilizer or risk their chances of making good harvest.

With the growing insecurity in the region however, which has virtually crippled socio-economic activities, the resources to get these farm inputs are another challenge. Since government and humanitarian service providers only assist in the area of food supply, any of such needs as clothing, healthcare, toiletries, school fees and among others, farm inputs have to be provided by the people themselves, which in most cases they can’t afford.

Persistent Isolated attacks driving farmers away

The same is the case in the middle-belt, the agricultural hub of Nigeria. Farmers displaced during the recent Fulani herdsmen attacks in Plateau state cannot return to their farms because of persistent, mostly isolated attacks. The few places where farming activities are safely carried out are either less fertile or located in the cities where land is in high demand and only short crops can be cultivated.

Sometimes in fact, the Fulani wait for the crops to be cultivated, but while they are still growing, they go overnight and mow down the farms. In some instances however, they let the crops reach harvest but either graze on them or steal them. That leaves the farmers with deep scars and frustration, giving that their entire means of survival has been taken away from them despite expending their lifetime savings on it.

In the Southeast as well, women in Delta state recently protested over frequent attacks by herdsmen who mostly chase their husbands and rape the women. The Fulani herders are also said to be in the habit of harvesting natives’ farm produce with which they use to feed their cattle.

The development, which is almost the same in Anambra and other states in the region has crippled socio-economic life in the region. Prices of agricultural products such as garri, plantain, yam, okro, melon, maize-corn, sugar-cane and vegetables have shot up beyond the reach of the average salary earner/ family as reports The Vanguard.

In many of the tormented farming states of the federation, Gov. Ortom of Benue state seems to be the boldest in dealing with the situation. By signing into law the bill banning public grazing, the governor has drastically reduced attacks on farmers. Most other governors just like the presidency always make merry over achievements they haven’t recorded in the security sector.

In Delta, while the governor was claiming he had deployed policemen to accompany farmers to their farms, the farmers said they had no security guards on their farms. Likewise, while Gov. Lalong was celebrating the return of peace having successfully nipped all forms of insecurity in the bud, farmers say they are being shot at each time they go to cultivate.  

The general implication is that food for local consumption and raw materials needed to facilitate the federal government’s local manufacturing policy might not be in adequate supply. This is because most farmers have merely been forced into subsistent agriculture, producing just enough to feed their families.

 No end to Inflation

With the government still banning importation of cash crops and other items believed to be locally produced, it means then that even after recession, inflation might not easily disappear which means more prolonged hardship for the populace. And as the saying goes, a hungry man is an angry man. Many of the starved children and youths if not properly curbed have the tendency of engaging in criminal activities and even insurgency.

This probably explains why the government forces are constantly being accused of human rights abuses in the northeast. This is not because the forces are killing innocent souls as always alleged. Perhaps, it is because innocent souls are sometimes forced by humanitarian crises to join the insurgents in order to survive.

With the military already being faced with a myriad of challenges including inadequate facilities and motivation, the end therefore to insurgency might not be in sight. South Africa for instance has only about 90, 000 active military personnel while Nigeria has at least 130,000 according to reports. However, South Africa has 12 attack helicopters while Nigeria has nine, 17 attack aircrafts with Nigeria again having only nine, and among others, three submarines with Nigeria having none.

Even the towed artillery which Nigeria has more than South Africa are either not as modern or powerful as those used by the insurgents. They use, wherever they get them from, some of the most sophisticated weapons including rocket-propelled grenade launchers with almost unlimited rounds of ammunition.

The military on the other hand who have some of these weapons in short supply most times have to make do with short range assault rifles with not quite sufficient ammunitions to use. All thanks to their professional training, which perhaps is the only advantage they have against the insurgents.

Perhaps, if the field commanders are always furnishing those at the top helm of affairs with factual reports on how the soldiers are fairing and the level of success attained in the fight, the government would, instead of claiming victory, renew efforts at reinvigorating them.

Now that it appears the government is uninformed, it is left to believe that all is well with the region and its inhabitants, and of course the soldiers, who as at mid – May 2017 had not received their allowances for months. What needs to be done presently is perhaps, setting up investigative moves towards better assessing the situation, by comparing facts whenever reports are filed from the top military officers. That perhaps is the only way to guarantee success in the fight against insurgency especially in the northeast region.

Chibok Parent to Marry Off Daughter to Boko Haram

Chibok Parent to Marry Off Daughter to Boko Haram
By Masara Kim
A parent of one of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls, Lawan Zana says he is ready to formalize the marriage between Boko Haram and his daughter still in their custody.
As long as there is love and understanding between the Boko Haram and the girl, they will not be refused their desires, Zana, the Secretary of the abducted girls’ parents’ movement, told The Light Bearer in Chibok, Borno State.
He said, “If they really want them as wives, marriage is an agreement between two families and parents are the major stakeholders.
“I am saying if it is our daughters that they want and our daughters agree, we are ready to formalize it.”
The idea according to him is to foster peace and prevent any further destruction in the troubled northeast region.
“This is because we want peace so our land does not suffer. We have said we have forgiven. If they say it is our daughters that they want as partners, let them come to us and let us iron out the issues and come to agreements, so that we can legalize the marriages,” Mr. Zana said.
The group’s scribe expressed gratitude the Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Shekau for 106 girls released so far.
“We had prayed to see even just one as a sign but by God’s grace we got one by name Amina. We were happy as it gave us hope that they are alive. From there God brought 21 to us and we became even happier.
“And God in his mercies made it that we were called to Abuja that there were 82 of the girls. We went, took their pictures and brought them and gave the parents, and they identified them.
“We were all happy. Mine (Aisha Lawan) hasn’t been released but as a leader I am happy as if mine has been released and I believe God that mine will be released too,” he said.
Women leader of the abducted girls parents, Mrs. Yana Galam also thanks them for taking care of their daughters.
“As a mother, if I will get the chance to say anything to Shekau, I will say thank you. The girls didn’t come with any problem in their health, for taking care of them, giving them food and caring for their health.”
Another parent, Mr. Galam Pogo whose daughter is still in captivity said, “There is nothing I can say than to just thank him (Shekau) since he agreed to honour negotiations and even release our girls, and are even still considering so, we thank him very well. We didn’t expect that he would consider that despite our cries but his heart of compassion is worth appreciating.”
The parents’ group’s chief adviser, Rev. Titus Bona, also from Chibok believes Shekau has a good heart and his reasons for fighting the federal government.
“How I wish I will see Shekau, I will shake hands with him and thank him. I will say thank you Shekau because you know you are a human being. And you know you are a parent, you have a heart and you have children. You took our children and because the parents are crying, you thought it wise and said let me release their children to them.
“He has his reasons why he is fighting the government and the government has to sit down with him to iron out the issues. The peasant farmers in the villages are just victims of circumstances.”
Rev. Bona, a onetime Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Borno State however prayed for the Boko Haram leader “to realize that he is a human being and understand that he is a leader and a father and just as he is taking care of his children, we need to also take care of our children.”

Expect severe hunger with the falling crop prices

Rubbish Nonsense

Oh God save our farmers!!!
They buy fertilizer and other farm inputs as well as labour at exorbitant rates.
They spend the largest parts of their days caring f
or their Irish potatoes and other crops on the farm.
Farmers conveying their farm produce to the market.
Photo by Abraham Mankilik, Sunipa Technologies

They pay for transport which is about five times what they paid three years ago to convey their farm produce to the market.

However, the only reason they smile is that they can get some stipends from the sale of the crops to cover part of their losses.

This is because the crops especially Irish potatoes, the main stay of the ordinary Plateau man have maintained a steady decline in price.

If only we had storage facilities. If only we had processing plants or a mechanism to support those into such.

I know of a boy who is into Irish flour and chips packaging, starch and other processing activities from Irish potatoes.

The much I know a state government had done for him was to give him some few naira notes to complete the painting of a processing plant he built himself.

But I think it should go beyond that. Elsewhere, government would make such a one its asset, seize the initiative and invest heavily in it considering the gains from it for the citizenry.
We must stop talking about investing in the non oil sector or ease of doing business without really working out a framework to really facilitate the success of the policies and programmes.

I am Masara Kim Usman and I just wanna rubbish nonsense

Chibok: a ‘Forgotten People’, Their Untold Story

By Masara Kim

A South Florida, USA Public Radio and Television website, wlrn.org published a feature by Kierran Petersen, on April 17, 2016 tagged “Getting the Chibok girls home is one thing. Knowing what to do with them once they get there is another.”
The write-up focused on the likely challenges of reintegration facing the abducted girls should they be rescued. This according to the report is sequel to the fact that young girls, “many of whom are returning with children born out of rape face unique and often times more difficult challenges when it comes to reintegration than boys.” Their children the report says are constant reminder of their link to the terrorist group.
This and many more difficult questions begging for answers had The Light Bearer recently visiting Chibok town in northeast Borno State on a fact finding mission. Some parents of the girls interviewed during the mission appeared to be more concerned with the survival of their girls than anything else. Therefore, the question of reintegration might not be an issue as the myriad of other salient issues confronting the Chibok people.
Some Chibok parents carrying pictures of their
abducted girls recovered by the FG: Photo by Masara Kim
Maslow's hierarchy of needs – physiological, safety, belongingness, self-esteem and self-actualization highlights requirements crucial for human survival and effectiveness. But according to the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Chibok Local Government Area, Pastor Philip Madu, dozens of people have been killed on their farms by Boko Haram while trying to make a living.
“They can’t do anything outside farming. But if they go there (farms), these people (Boko Haram) will shoot them,” he said.

‘Limited Farming Distance and Hours’

The establishment of a Military Brigade in the community has brought relief, but due to shortage of equipment and manpower, the military there have designate limited distances and periods within which farming activities can take place. Anything beyond those hours or areas is not their responsibility.
However, the fertile lands that require little or no fertilizer for yield are the farthest which are unguarded. Since government and humanitarian service providers mostly only assist in the area of food supply, any of such needs as clothing, healthcare, toiletries, school fees and among others, farm inputs like fertilizer have to be provided by the people themselves, which in most cases they can’t afford.
That not only leaves them with unfulfilled psychological and safety needs which include physical security, but also needs of social belongingness. This is because despite the international uproar about the community, not much has reached the people in terms of assistance.

‘Nobody has assisted us…even BBOG’

Pastor Madu said, “It is like we are a forgotten people in Chibok. Since these things started, if not one Rev. Titus Bona of Barnabas Foundation that has come to assist just the parents of the abducted girls, and some assistance we got from United Nations, nobody has come to assist us.”
Even the Bring Back Our Girls group has not given any assistance to the affected parents aside the campaign for the release of the girls. Secretary of the affected parents’ movement, Lawan Zana said, “We thank God for all their support in advocating for the release of our girls. But as Secretary of this movement, there is no incentive that BringBackOurGirls has given us as parents. For our children in Abuja in the movement, we thank them for the support but if there is anything that they have given us, I don’t know of it.”

Deadly access road

Their woes are further compounded by the lack of an access road. Not until recently, the 34-km Chibok- Nbalala-Damboa was never awarded. As at March 2017, the road awarded to Cumex Nigeria Ltd was still at the clearing stage. The State’s Commissioner for Works, Alhaji Adamu Lawan, was however quoted by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) as saying the project was to be completed in 90 days.
The Chibok- Nbalala-Damboa road is the shortest route to the state capital or any safer city nearby. Nevertheless, between Maiduguri and Damboa, the road is bordered on one side by the deadly Sambisa forest which is nicknamed the operation theatre of the Boko Haram.
Travelers going to or out of the area have to converge at designated points everyday to be escorted in a mass convoy movement by heavily armed military personnel. This is done to ensure the safety of travelers along the road which does not however guarantee absolute security. A soldier in Chibok said, “Even when we are heavily armed, they are not afraid.”

Ambush on travelers

Two days before The Light Bearer’s visit, travelers were ambushed in the military convoy with one civilian casualty recorded. During rainy seasons, the shrubs in the bushes grow taller, providing the insurgents with suitable covers.
Expended bullet shells on the road to Chibok: Photo by Masara Kim
According to another soldier in Maiduguri, the insurgents “erect small shelters under the shrubs such that even a fighter jet cannot detect them”. The soldiers escorting travelers along the road therefore have to keep firing gunshots at various points to scare off the insurgents.
Any vehicle that breaks down due to mechanical fault or the puncturing of a tyre which is usually by bullet shells scattered along the road must be abandoned for another day. This is because if it cannot be quickly fixed before the last military escorts vehicle passes, chances are that the owner would be attacked as the Boko Haram members often go after such vehicles when the troops are gone.
That experience alone is enough to disconnect the people from the outside world. Aside the fear of going in or out of the town, many people do not even believe Chibok exists, neither does its story. That may have added to the travails of the people there. “I am not happy that Christians are saying this thing is a lie. When you look at the population of the Chibok people, we are 95% Christians and I doubt if Christians can tell lies about our daughters,” he stated.

Government’s rebuilding programme

Chibok just as many of the communities in Southern Borno have not witnessed any of the government’s reconstruction program. The state government was in 2016 reported to have reconstructed about 11 Christian worship centers in Maiduguri.
Children fetching water from
a well shared with cattle near Chibok: Photo by Masara Kim
Only Dalori and a few other remote towns and villages which have been worse hit by Boko Haram have benefitted from the rebuilding program. An international NGO was however recently launched under the hashtag #EmpowerBorno to mobilize funds for the reconstruction of destroyed villages to fast track the return of the thousands of displaced persons in the state.
The concern however is likely not about the reconstruction but the safety. Nigeria’s Acting President, Yemi Osibanjo had in his 2017 Democracy Day broadcast claimed that Boko Haram had been defeated in the northeast. Military sources in the region however say the JTF is under-equip to execute the fight against the group. They even accused some of their top officers as well as politicians from the northeast of frustrating the fight.